Tufts falls to Amherst 26–16 despite late-game rally

Tufts players line up before a snap in the homecoming game against Bates on Zimman Field on Sept. 29, 2018. Rachel Hartman / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Amherst Mammoths defeated the Jumbos 26­–16 Saturday after an especially exciting fourth quarter that saw 22 total points scored. Tufts now sits at 1–2 and is tied for sixth place in the 10-team NESCAC, while Amherst improved to 3–0 and shares first place with Wesleyan and Middlebury.

“There was better play from the previous week,” coach Jay Civetti said about the game. “Less mistakes, but not enough execution, and not enough correcting when we had the penalty or when there was a big play.”

The game started out slowly for both teams on offense, with solid defenses from each side. In the first quarter, Tufts accumulated 77 total yards of offense, while Amherst only edged out 24 yards.

Amherst was the first to get on the board in the second quarter, as its offense systematically moved down the field with a six-minute, 88-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Brandon Huff. The Jumbos got the ball back and quickly punted. It only took the Mammoths two plays to score this time — a 46-yard run by senior quarterback Ollie Eberth and a 34-yard pass from Eberth to senior wide receiver James O’Regan were all the Mammoths needed to find the end zone.

Now trailing 14–0 with just under five minutes remaining in the half, the Jumbos slowly worked their way down the field. From the Amherst 20-yard line, senior quarterback Jacob Carroll took a shot at the end zone on first and 10 but was intercepted by Amherst senior defensive back Avery Saffold.

The Mammoths held onto their 14-point lead through the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, until the Jumbos finally got on the board with a 40-yard field goal from junior kicker Matt Alswanger. The Jumbos stood their ground on defense on the following drive, forcing a Mammoths three-and-out. But, an awkward bounce on the punt that deflected off the Jumbos led to a Mammoths recovery. They quickly converted with a 23-yard field goal at the end of the quarter, bringing their lead to 17–3.

The fourth quarter was filled with excitement — the teams combined for three consecutive 60-plus yard touchdown passes in just two minutes and 22 seconds. In the first drive of the quarter, Carroll connected with graduate wide receiver Frank Roche, who raced down the field into the end zone for a 64-yard score, cutting the deficit to just eight with a score of 17–9 after a missed extra point.

The Mammoths quickly answered with a huge play of their own on the subsequent drive. A holding penalty on third and 9 by the Jumbos gave the Mammoths a first down, which they capitalized on with a 70-yard touchdown from Eberth to sophomore wide receiver Daniel Dolan.

But the Jumbos weren’t done. On the first play upon getting the ball back, a long pass from Carroll to junior wide receiver Brendan Dolan was good for a 75-yard touchdown.

“Two really good football teams out on that field; two teams being aggressive offensively and defensively,” Civetti said. “And two really good quarterbacks. There was a lot that happened very quickly … We were one big play away.”

Despite the wild opening minutes of the quarter, the scoring settled down. Amherst scored two more points with a safety on a failed Tufts punt attempt when the snap went over the head of first-year punter Patrick Walsh. The Mammoths protected their 26–16 lead the rest of the way. Interceptions by Saffold and senior defensive back John Ballard ended Tufts’ chances at another rally on two of its final possessions.

Overall, the minor details hurt the Jumbos: Six penalties gave the Mammoths 55 yards, and the Jumbos struggled to convert on third down, going five for 14.

“I think we could’ve kept the defense off the field and capitalized on third down in a few instances,” Carroll said. “But our defense did a good job. As a leader of the offense, I’m trying to keep the defense off the field as much as possible.”

However, there were some positives: Carroll continued to impress at quarterback with 305 passing yards, and the defense managed to recover, to some extent, after giving up 44 points the week before to Williams.

The Tufts squad will look to get back on track this weekend, as they travel to Lewiston, Maine, to take on Bates (0–3). Saturday’s kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

“I’ve got confidence in the seniors, and I’ve got confidence in the staff,” Civetti said. “We need to continue to get better and grow as a team. We’ve got a lot of football left.”